Holidaying in Spain – What You Need to Know
Spain’s economy underwent a major change after the Euro was introduced in January of 2002. Shopkeepers, restaurateurs, real estate agents, and hoteliers rounded off prices in the hope to gain the most – this resulted in Spain becoming more expensive. The immense tourism industry of Spain was harmed little by this change until in 2009 recession began to affect everyone. In 2011 and 2012, the hospitality industry bounced back due to the weaker euro. Although the country is swamped in recession, and economy has shrunk greatly, the above 57 million tourists contribute a great 12% to Spain’s GDP annually.
Spain’s Catholic Church, which has close ties with the new party PP, is funded by the state. The Cadena Cope radio station is the voice of the Church, and holds a considerable influence on the social and political arenas of Spain. Secret groups such as the Legionarios de Cristo and Opus Dei have important members who hold key positions in government and industry.
Although the church has significant influence, Spain is more of a secular country now. That 70% of the population supported the law, which allows gay marriage is demonstration of this fact. Although 75%-plus of the population claims Catholicism, only 20% or less attend church regularly. Immigrants from Eastern Europe and South America (who are devout Catholics) have bolstered up Mass attendance over the past ten years.
The 2nd largest religion in the country is Islam, thanks to its 1 million-plus Muslim residents.
The international and national attention paid to the yearly prize of Principe de Asturias – where accolades are held out to international achievers like Leonard Cohen and Riccardo Muti, and to home talents like Santiago Calatrava (architect-sculptor, and designer of the WTC PATH station in New York) by Prince Felipe – shows how devoted the Spaniards are to art.
Without a doubt, film dominates the arts scene of the country. Pedro Almodovar is an acclaimed Spanish director who gained yet another victory in 2011 when he directed ‘The Skin I Live In’, a melodramatic fantasy starring the famous Antonio Banderas. The beautiful Penelope Cruz teamed up with Woody Allen again for ‘To Rome With love’, a comedy of 2012; she also starred in 2011 in ‘On Stranger Tides,’ the fourth of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. The twisted hit-man in ‘No Country for Old Men,’ Javier Bardem starred as a bad man yet again in ‘Skyfall’, a 2012 James Bond movie.
On the other hand, music in Spain is more of a local affair. The festival scene in summer serves some of the top names to merrymakers who travel from Europe to immerse in the music, and bask in the sun. World of Music and Dance (WOMAD), and the Festival Internacional de Benicassim are among the summer festivals.
On the literary side, Spanish Authors like Maruja Torres, Rosa Montero, and Miguel Delibes flourish in their home country. Very few appear on the international scene, such as Arturo Perez Reverte, author of ‘The Fencing Master’ and ‘Captain Alatriste’. There is also Carlos Ruiz Zafon who wrote ‘The Angel’s Game’, ‘Prisoner of Heaven’ and ‘Shadow of the Wind’. Miquel Barcelo, Antoni Tapies, and Eduardo Chillida still dominate the art industry in the country.
Football is the favourite sport of the country. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are firmly settled internationally, and La Liga is recognized as an exciting league of the world. The country’s national football team is called La Roja, which translates as the red one. It is the world’s only team that has won the World Cup successively and the European Cup twice. After football, Spanish fans are riveted by basketball, tennis, and cycling. Alberto Contador won the Tour de France in 2009; Pau Gasol (player of Los Angeles Lakers) and Marc Gasol (player of Memphis Grizzlies) are the nation’s heroes; Rafael Nadal is an amazing tennis player.
The local and regional elections of the country in 2011 showed significant results. The defeat of the popular socialist party (PSOE), which had been in authority since 2004, gave way to the opposition party (PP).
The centre-right parties of opposition got control over the largest cities of Spain; these included Barcelona that had been under the authority of the PSOE since 1979. The PP won in the popular vote throughout the nation, which gained it a parliamentary majority, and the leader of the party, Mariano Rajoy became the prime minister.
The former party had adopted austerity measures to deal with the economic problems of the country on which the electorate soured. However, under the new prime minister, the government took those measures further; income tax was raised, labour reforms were introduced, which makes the firing of workers easier, collective bargaining system was weakened that lowered wages, and the salaries of public sector employees were reduced. The indignados (indignant ones) protested against these measures in the major cities throughout the country; through most of 2013, there were sporadic demonstrations.
The autonomous regions of Spain are responsible for their health care, welfare, and education budgets; their persistent borrowing and overspending have greatly contributed to the economic crises of the nation. The PP government opposes devolution of any more powers to these regions. The new prime minister’s centralized government is only adding fuel to the fire; and, parties that promise to work for independence were victorious in the regional elections. Regional parties voted for an independence referendum in March of 2013.